Here is a description of what the condition is.
Aortic dissection is a condition in which there is bleeding into and along the wall
of the aorta (the major artery from the heart). This condition may also involve abnormal widening or ballooning of the aorta
Aortic aneurysm - dissecting
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Aortic dissection involves bleeding into and along the wall of the aorta (the major artery from the heart), most often because of a tear or damage
to the inner wall of the artery. This usually occurs in the thoracic (chest) portion of the aorta, but may also occur in the
The exact cause is unknown, but risks include atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and hypertension (high blood pressure). Traumatic injury is a major cause of aortic dissection, especially blunt trauma to the
chest as can be caused by hitting the steering wheel of a car during an accident.
Aortic dissection may also be associated with other injury, infection, congenital (present from birth) weakness
of the aorta, collagen disorders (such as Marfan's syndrome, pseudoxanthoma elasticum, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, relapsing polychondritis, or abdominal aortic aneurysm). Pregnancy, valve disorders (including aortic insufficiency), and coarctation of the aorta may also be associated with aortic dissection.
Aortic dissection occurs in approximately 2 out
of every 10,000 people. It can affect anyone but is most often seen in men aged 40 to 70.
Adequate treatment and control of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and hypertension (high blood pressure) may reduce risk. Use safety precautions to reduce the risk of injury. Many cases are not preventable.
- chest pain
- sudden, severe, sharp, stabbing, tearing, or ripping
- located below the sternum, then radiates under the shoulder blades or to the back
- may radiate to shoulder, neck, arm, jaw, abdomen, or hips
- location may change -- pain typically moves distally (to arms and legs) as the aortic dissection progresses
in the same direction
- changes in thought ability, concentration (confusion, disorientation)
- decreased movement, any location
- decreased sensation, any location
- intense anxiety, anguish
- rapid pulse (heart rate)
- profuse sweating
- dry skin/mouth, thirst
- nausea, vomiting
- dizziness, fainting
- shortness of breath (dyspnea)
Note: Symptoms usually begin suddenly.
Additional symptoms that may be associated with
Signs and tests
Listening with a stethoscope (auscultation) at the chest and abdomen may reveal a "blowing" murmur over the aorta, a heart murmur, or other abnormality.
There may be decreased (weak) pulses in the arms and hands.
There may be low blood pressure, bulging neck veins, or signs resembling a heart attack. There may be signs
of shock (inadequate blood flow to the body tissues), but with normal blood pressure.
Aortic dissection or aortic aneurysm may be revealed on:
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